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Which reminds me: Adventures in framing the White Sox offense's failures

Lineup reaches staggering lows, while Carson Fulmer ends his collegiate career on top of his game

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Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Watching the White Sox try to hit pretty much numbs my mind at this point, but a handful of tweets over the last 24 hour got me thinking.

After Monday's game, this is no longer true, Steve.

  1. Jose Abreu (1.2)
  2. Geovany Soto (0.4)
  3. Gordon Beckham (0.1)
    Jeff Samardzija (0.1)

So there.

Yes, Beckham's bloop single on Monday -- the same one that ended with him getting thrown out at second trying to stretch it into a double -- was enough to break a tie with Adam LaRoche, who is the only other hitter with a non-negative FanGraphs WAR. That's the state of the White Sox offense, so I guess this is where the John Danks complaints roll in (yes, it's Erik Johnson's turn; what of it?).

Beckham has started 21 of the White Sox' last 27 games, and has appeared in 26 of them. A 4-for-45 slump has knocked his 2015 line to .223/.288/.354, all of which are below the averages of his disappointing White Sox career.

Searching Google News for Beckham headlines over this time, in chronological order:

  • Gordon Beckham contributing with keen instincts
  • White Sox continue to ride hot hand with Gordon Beckham
  • Gordon Beckham aims to keep earning playing time
  • Conor Gillaspie trying to contribute despite diminished playing time
  • Gordon Beckham gets to turn back the clock for a day
  • Gordon Beckham adjusting nicely to being role player for White Sox

The Chicago Tribune published stories about Beckham being the starter and Beckham being a bench player within the same week, while Doug Padilla framed Beckham's walk-off homer as a redemption story, including this mind-bender of a paragraph:

Beckham has been starting at third base more of late, but he still isn’t hitting with consistency, so he continues to be viewed as a late-inning replacement. Because he isn’t starting, he has tried to stay out of the limelight more than in the past.

For whatever reason, Beckham generates so much goodwill that he bends others' narratives so that they largely avoid critical commentary, and sometimes even compliment him for things that aren't actually happening. This is why I've always been generally sympathetic toward Alexei Ramirez, whose shortcomings -- especially those involving his aversion to contact -- have never been accepted with anything resembling similar ease.

Addison Reed hadn't pitched in the minors since 2011. After three full seasons as a closer for the White Sox and Diamondbacks, he's heading back to Triple-A to figure out what's wrong. Arizona optioned him to Reno, just because they were tired of seeing him die.

While Reed saved 32 games for the Diamondbacks in his first season with them last year, it wasn't a particularly encouraging performance. He went 1-7 with a 4.25 ERA (90 ERA+), surrendering a whopping 11 homers in a shade under 60 innings, which made him a half-win below replacement level.

Somehow, that still would have constituted an improvement over much of what the White Sox tried in their bullpen in 2014, but it didn't change the fact that they dealt him at the right time. His stretch-run fade in 2013 suggested that he'd never be a lock-down closer, and thanks to an arbitration formula that favors closers, waiting a year would have erased his trade value.

That expectation -- Reed's game stagnating while his salary exploded -- played out. He's making $4.875 million this year, and while he's reduced the rate of homers, all his other peripherals have turned on him, and so his ERA is even worse (5.92). Judging by the response on AZ Snakepit, the move was a long time coming.

Alas, while the timing of the deal was perfect from the White Sox' side, they can't call it a victory. Matt Davidson still hasn't played a game for the White Sox after playing 31 of them for Arizona, and he isn't making a strong case for a promotion, either. He's recovered enough from his disastrous 2014 to improve the aesthetics of his line:

  • 2015: .229/.317/.422
  • 2014: .199/.283/.362

But his strikeout rate, boosted by a golden sombrero on Monday, remains a fatal flaw:

  • 2015: 32.8 percent
  • 2014: 30.3 percent

This should give those thinking about trading Chris Sale and Jose Quintana pause, since a Davidson-grade prospect would be a big part of any return. The Sox' general inability to finish hitting prospects is a big reason behind that stat that Steve threw out there, and I'd rather see the Sox take a good hard look at this stage in the process before they start sacrificing their good players to fuel a highly inefficient machine.

Part of the reason trading a starter has its allure is that the organization can produce pitchers. Once Carson Fulmer joins the fold, the Sox system will have even more to play with.

Fulmer entered the limbo state between collegiate and professional baseball. On Monday, he pitched what is presumably his last game for Vanderbilt, throwing 7⅔ shutout innings to lead the Commodores to a commanding 5-1 victory over Virginia in Game 1 of the College World Series finals.

Fulmer's line: 7⅔ IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 K, 2 HBP, 118 pitches (71 strikes). The highlights looked the part, and he wasn't even at 100 percent:

It was a sick performance by a sick pitcher. Fulmer allowed he had become ill on Sunday night and was still struggling when he took the mound.

"It hit me early on last night," he said. "I felt a little odd, but I didn't think too much of it. I just started shaking and threw on a heavy jacket and got under the sheets and tried to sweat it out through the night."

Coach Tim Corbin put Fulmer in the Vanderbilt pantheon of pitchers with David Price and Sonny Gray, and inadvertently offered advice to Fulmer's future managers in the White Sox organization:

[Fulmer] grudgingly handed the ball to Corbin, who already had signaled for left-handed reliever Ben Bowden before he reached the mound.

Corbin was smart to signal for Bowden before he reached Fulmer. A relentless competitor, Fulmer might have fought Corbin to allow him to finish what he started. Corbin didn't want to get into a debate, for obvious reasons.

"With him, there is no debate because he wins," Corbin said. "It's reverse coaching. If you're going to go out there, you have to say, 'That's it.' It can be contentious. He's a bull. But I'll take that any day of the week. That compete level is hard to come by."